First, be aware that different articles and journal or discipline formats use different terms. For some the “Introduction” includes a literature review but doesn’t label it as such. For most, an introduction is following by a literature review or background. Don’t pay attention to the titles so much. The important point is that all papers need to start with information for a general reader followed by information for an educated reader who may be in the writer’s general field, but is not doing research in the writer’s particular area. The information for both sections needs to start from some general common ground and move into the specifics of the writer’s project.
Introduction #1: for the General Reader
This section may have a few citations but not many. Some writers start with the definition of a key term, but the National Science Foundation suggests that an effective beginning starts with a real world problem that your research may help address. Real world problems will be interesting to general readers, so they will want to read more about how your research will present a solution. A problem-solution structure is extremely helpful for the reader of this section.
Introduction #2: for the Educated Reader (also called Lit Review or Background)
This section should have 20-50 citations. To gain the expert reader’s trust, you need to demonstrate that you are an expert in the field, aware of what others are doing that may be relevant to your own work. You summarize and synthesize the work of others. The purpose of the literature review is to demonstrate the research gap. The research gap is what your innovation is designed to fill, what no one else is currently doing. The gap will be interesting to expert readers because they will need to be convinced no one else is doing the same work in the field. Because your work appears to be innovative, they will be interested in studying your methods and assumptions.
Summarizing your References
Click on one of the following three reasons for summarizing sources in a lit review. Work in progress!!
Highlight Main Findings
Focus on Method
Synthesizing your References
While summarizing is important for a systematic review and may be admissible in certain journals, but you must always be able to synthesize the information from your sources. “Synthesizing” means that you are creating something new. The way you synthesize the information will be different from the way others do it because you are using the information about what others are doing in order to demonstrate the legitimacy of your own work. The following examples are from Swales, J., & Feak, C. (2012). Academic Writing for Graduate Students, 3rd ed. Michigan University Press (pp. 221-4).
Serial Summaries or Data Dumping VS
In 1986 Halpern, Blake and Hillenbrand investigated how people respond to different terrible sounds. In one experiment, listeners rated the unpleasantness of different sounds. Participants generally agreed that the worst sound was that of a garden tool scraped on a piece of slate shaped into a roofing tile, which sounds similar to fingernails scraped on a traditional blackboard. The researchers found that the negative reaction to the sound could mainly be found in a band of 2-4 kHz.
Also in 1986, Blake did a study of a scraping noise, comparing its sound wave with that of monkey warning cries. The waveforms of the two were quite similar. Because of this similarity, Blake concluded that humans react negatively to scraping noises because they still have some innate reaction mechanism from their ancient ancestors. In other words, humans still have the same response mechanism as monkeys who hear a warning cry.
McDermott and Hauser in 2004 explored reactions of humans and a type of monkey known as a tamarin to scraping sounds and screeching, respectively. They also examined their reactions to some white noise. The humans clearly preferred white noise to scraping, while the tamarins reacted to this noise as negatively as they did to screeching.
In 2008 Cox conducted an experiment of scraping sounds in which participants had both audio and visual inputs. The goal was to determine whether the sound and visualizing how it feels to make the sound were in some way related. Coix found that the sound of scraping fingernails on a blackboard was perceived as much worse when participants were shown a picture of a hand on a blackboard. He concluded that visualizing the making of the sound, a process that is unpleasant, is a significant factor in the perception of unpleasantness.
Instructor Comments p222-3
- You have discussed three studies only. Are there others that you could include?
- The discussion deals with the studies in chronological order. I don’t find this to be a particularly useful strategy because you don’t make any connections among the studies.
- Overall, I am not sure what your point is. You seem to be discussing the past work only because you know you are supposed to talk about what others have done. But discussing what others have done should not stand in place of making a point. Do you have a point to make?
- I am not getting a sense that you understand where the field stands as to why certain sounds are considered really unpleasant. Can you revise to reflect your understanding?
- What is the upshot of McDermott and Hauser’s study? What is the larger implication?
- Does the study by Cox mean that the frequency of a sound is not a factor? Can you comment on this?
The acoustic environment contains many sounds that are considered extremely unpleasant. To understand why these sounds are characterized in this way a small number of studies have been carried out. Interestingly, all of these have investigated scraping sound and within this category the sound of fingernails scraped on a blackboard has been of considerable interest (Halpern, Blake, and Hillenbrand, 1986; Blake, 1986; McDermott and Hauser, 2004; Cox, 2008). Studies of scraping sounds have shown that the negative reaction to the sound could mainly be found in a band of 2-4 kHz (Halpern, Blake and Hillenbrand, 1986; Kumar et al, 2008). This differs from very early research suggesting that high frequencies create the unpleasant quality of this and other scraping sounds (Boyed, 1959; Ely 1975). Other research has looked beyond frequency, seeking to understand whether there might be some vestigial reasons for the perceived unpleasantness and using data collected from monkeys (Blake, 1986; McDermott and Hauser, 2004). For instance, Blake (1986) compared scraping sound waves with those of monkey warning cries and found that the waveforms of the two were quite similar. Because of this similarity, Blake concluded that humans react negatively to scraping noises because they still have some innate reaction mechanism from their ancient ancestors. In other words, humans still have the same response mechanism as monkeys who hear a warning cry. In related research, McDermott and Hause (2004) explored reactions of humans and a type of monkey known as a tamarin to blackboard scraping sounds and screeching, respectively, as well as their reactions to some white noise. While humans clearly preferred white noise to blackboard scraping, the tamarins reacted to this noise as negatively as they did to screeching. These findings call into question Blakes’ theory that primates, both human and non-human, have the same underlying mechanism for reaction to sounds.
Unlike studies exploring a biological basis for perceptions of sound. Cox proposed that humans may find certain sounds highly unpleasant when they can visualize creating those sounds. Cox found that the sound of fingernails scraping on a blackboard was perceived as much worse when participants were shown a picture of a hand on a blackboard. He concluded that the visualization of and possible tactile association with making a sound, particularly one that is unpleasant, are significant factors in the perception of the degree of unpleasantness. Thus, the frequency of a sound may be somewhat less important than previously thought. Given the small number of studies, however, it remains unclear why certain sounds, particularly scraping sounds are almost universally perceived as extremely unpleasant, suggesting the need for more research.
Example of a research gap (as reported informally in a newspaper article):
Chemists have been searching for safer ways to get rid of PFAS, but it’s been difficult to find methods that are cheap and safe. In 2020, Dr. Dichtel stumbled across a possible treatment that was surprisingly simple.
At the end of a PFAS molecule’s carbon-fluorine chain, it is capped by a cluster of other atoms. Many types of PFAS molecules have heads made of a carbon atom connected to a pair of oxygen atoms, for example.
Dr. Dichtel came across a study in which chemists at the University of Alberta found an easy way to pry carbon-oxygen heads off other chains. He suggested to his graduate student, Brittany Trang, that she give it a try on PFAS molecules.
Dr. Trang was skeptical. She had tried to pry off carbon-oxygen heads from PFAS molecules for months without any luck. According to the Alberta recipe, all she’d need to do was mix PFAS with a common solvent called dimethyl sulfoxide, or DMSO, and bring it to a boil.“I didn’t want to try it initially because I thought it was too simple,” Dr. Trang said. “If this happens, people would have known this already.”
An older grad student advised her to give it a shot. To her surprise, the carbon-oxygen head fell off. It appears that DMSO makes the head fragile by altering the electric field around the PFAS molecule, and without the head, the bonds between the carbon atoms and the fluorine atoms become weak as well. “This oddly simple method worked,” said Dr. Trang, who finished her Ph.D. last month and is now a journalist.
Zimmer, C. (August 18, 2022). Forever chemicals no more? PFAS are destroyed with new technique. The New York Times.
Para #1: Problem/Solution set up
Para #2: PFAS
Para #3: Non-PFAS
Para #4: so here is a gap, i.e. something untried by PFAS researchers
Para #5: Rationale or explanation of why (or preliminary data showing that) the innovation might work
Your research aims/findings
The last paragraph should be a statement of the aims or findings of your research. The aims are required in a proposal, but may also be used as a style in a journal since they work similarly to a hypothesis or thesis that the rest of the article will prove. The findings will be in a simplified form so that the reader will need to read the paper in order to get the full information.